The YES BioBlitz 2023 Report

by Nikki Toxopeus

The results are in, the stats are done, and the prizes awarded!

The Yellow Point Ecological Society BioBlitz for 2023 is officially over! Thank you to all our participants and identifiers for making it so much fun and so successful.

We clocked up a similar number of species as previous years, with fewer observers.  We had 298 research grade species as shown below, thanks to the quality of the observations and the support of the wider iNaturalist community helping ID the entries.

YES board members are not eligible for prizes, and so our prize winners are Annette Lefaivre (visiting from Calgary and helped map the area), Liam Steele (from Ladysmith and an outstanding young naturalist) and Heath Bleau (who recently moved, with his wife Kathy, to Nanaimo). Annette and Heath received a set of 10 Briony Penn Nature cards, and Liam was persuaded to accept a BC Museum Mushroom book, in part as a thank you for all his work helping to ID species.

We also awarded a school prize to the Grade 3 class at the Stz’Uminus Community School, who joined the BioBlitz for the first time and will be presented with a set of the Pacific North West Plant Knowledge Cards and a set of Briony Penn’s Nature posters.

Our results compared to last two years (given in brackets) are as follows:

Observations 1847 (2004, 2289)
Species 538 (556, 508)
Identifiers 165 (178, 252)
Observers 38 (47, 62)

This year, the most observed species were


Pacific Trillium (Trillium ovatum) was the most observed and by the most people.
Western Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera oblongifolia) was spotted multiple times by a few people.
The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was the top observed species last year and no one recorded it this year.

Other notable differences were that there were only 4 sightings of the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), Devil’s club (Oplopanax horridus) was absent this year, and western meadow rue (Thalictrum occidentale) was seldom seen. 

The most observed species aligns with my experience of this season – the trilliums were out in force, the robins were furiously nesting and dominating the dawn chorus, and I did not see the Great Blue Heron by the Ladysmith Marina (but they are back now).

The top introduced and invasive species recorded remain:
Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius) – located along Cable Bay Trail, in Joan point Park, Holland Creek Park, Holland Creek Estuary Trail, Haslam Creek, near yellow Point Lodge and along power line ROWs.  Broom cuts are planned for some of these locations.
European Holly (Ilex aquifolium) – located in Stocking Creek Park, Holland Creek Park, Morden Colliery, Kinsman Park, Estuary Trail, and other roadsides
Spurge-laurel (Daphne laureola) – all the above parks!!

I will be using and adding to this data set to help determine where we need to remove invasives from our parks and other special areas.

There was some great teaching and learning happening in the online chatter. Next year let’s expand the learning to the field, organise some group walks and take the iNater chatter to the field.

See you same time, same place next year!  Reserve April 26-29th 2024 for getting out in nature with your friends, family, and other naturalists. This date aligns with the global City Nature Challenge BioBlitz and we hope Nanaimo and other Vancouver Island Cities will join in again.

Many thanks! – Nikki Toxopeus

Nature’s Greetings Cards

The Salt Spring author, naturalist and artist Briony Penn has kindly allowed us to convert some of her beautiful illustrations into greetings cards, which we are selling as a fundraiser for YES. $6 each. Buy 3 or more $5 each. Add $5 for postage if you would like us to mail them to you.

We are not set up for an on-line shop, so please bear with us! The cards shown below are available by all five methods. Various other designs are also available if you visit the three outlets listed in method 1.

There are five ways you can buy the cards:

  1. Buy them at Black Door Decor in Ladysmith
  2. Call Carolyn 250-924-4478 and arrange to pick them up at 13561 Barney Road (off Yellow Point Road)
  3. Mail a cheque with written details of the cards you would like to the Yellow Point Ecological Society, 13561 Barney Road, Ladysmith V9G 1E9
  4. E-transfer the $$ with written details of the cards you would like to
  5. Send $$ to the YES PayPal account with written details of the cards you would like using the Buy Now button. (Ignore the word ‘membership’.)Buy Now Button

YES BioBlitz 2021 – It’s Over!

Our BioBlitz is over, at least for this year! To see all 533 different species that were identified, see below, or click here.

We would like to celebrate our book prize winners and all the participants who made the event so much fun and such a great success. Nikki would especially like to thank Carrie Robinson who organized the event and made it more fun by adding the book prizes. They are such great BC wildlife books and everyone did such great work.  They were awarded to the following:

  • Liam Steele, Plants of Coastal British Columbia
  • Greg Roberts, Amphibians of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia
  • Coco van Zyl, Birds of South Western British Columbia
  • North Oyster School, The Mammals of British Columbia
  • Sense of Place, The Mammals of British Columbia

Liam Steele, age 11, is clearly an I-Naturalist super-user and worth following on I-Naturalist under Pacificwhitesideddolphin.We were so fortunate to have him join our event. Not only did he have the top number of observations; he also ID’d over a hundred species for other participants and had some amazing shots, like the Plainfin Midshipman (the fish that sings) and the American Mink (by Transfer Beach). He started his career as an i-Naturalist in June 2019 at the age of 9, when he used it as a guide for listing species on his summer vacation in Vernon and Osoyoos. He was 10 ¾ before he knew he could join i-Naturalist and he has now made over ten thousand observations. We are sure he will achieve his goal of becoming a wildlife biologist, and hope he finds the Pojar and MacKinnon Plant book useful in this quest. 

Greg Roberts, unlike Liam, started with the Pojar and MacKinnon Plant book and he has been using it for years. Through our YES BioBlitz he has just been introduced to i-Naturalist. He was one of our most enthusiastic participants. He was there at the meeting asking the tough questions and was the first one onto the field on Day 1 of the BioBlitz.  Greg has accumulated a lifetime of great wildlife pictures from his career as a trained geographer who spent most of his working life behind a desk in park and land planning but most of his free time canoeing, camping, and exploring. He has now started to upload his images into i-Naturalist and is really enjoying the help the app gives with IDs.

Coco van Zyl knows every inch of the land she has been stewarding for the past six years.  She has repeatedly removed invasive and non-native species, encouraging and protecting native plants until they are robust enough to thrive. We are so lucky to have her record some of these species and to ID species for others. She needs little help from I-Naturalist to ID plants, and could probably help improve their App in this area.

Desiree Ferdinandi signed up North Oyster School for the BioBlitz and worked with her colleagues, Camille Paradis and Heather Trawick, and students in Grades 2, 3 and 6/7 to participate. They organized classes so that students took pictures and the grade 6/7 class uploaded them to her i-Naturalist account. She spent the week trying to ID them. Desiree is quick to point out that Camille Paradis and Heather Trawick put a lot of time and effort into getting North Oyster involved in the BioBlitz and did the lion’s share of the organizing. The end results were very respectable, and it was great fun for all. We would love to invite Desiree, Camille and Heather to our BioBlitz meeting next year to share how schools and groups can collate their observations. 

Patti Gisborne signed up the Sense of Place Youth Project Outdoor Explorers. Amanda McDonough, their outdoor exploration manager, said they “were thrilled to photograph and record the diversity of life on the Gisborne property. The children learn about the plants and creatures here seasonally, and they found great joy in sharing that data in the BioBlitz. Children took turns discovering and photographing their favourite plants throughout the forest, field, orchard, and pond. They loved being able to identify unknown species through the i-Naturalist app. We will definitely be utilizing this app in the future for our programming!“

YES plans to host the BioBlitz as a regular annual event, and we are keen to hear suggestions on how we can make it even better next year. Please email us or post comments on our website and please continue to browse the YES BioBlitz project on I-Naturalist to see and ID the wonderful species in our area.

– Nikki Toxopeus

For Love of The Forest

How Can We Protect the Forest on Private Land? On Vancouver Island, forests are threatened with being clearcut on private land, as well as on Crown Land and Private Managed Forest Land. We created this short video in 2019 to highlight the ways in which we can protect the forest.

Alien Invasions in Yellow Point-Cedar

Scotch Broom taking over!

by Nikki Toxopeus

The other day, my two woodland guides and I were coming back from a beautiful walk to Long Lake and one of my young guides leapt from the path and ripped out a solitary green stalk of Scotch Broom.  

Continue reading “Alien Invasions in Yellow Point-Cedar”

A Year on the Wild Side, by Briony Penn

Briony Penn’s A Year on the Wild side is a total delight. She wrote the essays over a period of 25 years, and every story is enriched by one of her gorgeous colour illustrations.

We now have 24 more copies, which we are selling for $25 (no tax) as a fundraiser for the Yellow Point Ecological Society. Pick-up from my home at 13561 Barney Road, in Yellow Point, just north of Ladysmith. Payment by cash, check or e-transfer. Call me to reserve a copy, Guy Dauncey, 250-924-1445 or email me: guydauncey at earthfuture dot com

She carries you through the year with two essays/stories for every week, from a washed-up Giant Octopus in January to the Rattle of Ravens in December. In between, in prose that is musical, magical and ecologically to-notch, she seduces you into the secrets of Nature’s glorious interconnected detail. As a writer, she makes me envious of her skills. 

“How would you feel as you slide through the jaws of a snake? This question has cropped up in my life at various times.”

Each essay makes for great reading aloud to children or grandchildren – but not at bed-time, since your children will be sure to respond with many questions, leading to much discussion.

 “I have always been very fond of toilet plungers. They remind me of hot summer evenings under a full moon at low tide on the steaming mud sands of the Salish Sea.”

And be warned! This book will seduce you and your family into getting out into the forest, into the tidal pools, and out on the water.

“Of late, my dreams have taken me into eelgrass meadows – those sanctuaries of emerald-green grass that grow below the sea in quiet bays and estuaries.”

You can learn more about Briony, her books and art at

The Art of Seeing Aphids

by Pamela Walker

Ants harvesting aphids.

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. Genesis,1:20 KJV

One bug that can really get under the skin of even the most zealous gardening environmentalist is the dreaded aphid. Before you can say Chrysantheumum cinerariifolium, these nature lovers are getting out their vacuum cleaners, their concoctions of garlic, soap, water and hot peppers, their jumbo-sized boxes of ladybugs, their high-pressure washers—anything, indeed—with which to annihilate the pesky blighters. 

            While it is true that the tiny creatures can suck the life out of a rose or a greenhouse-load of peppers in a matter of days, what is also true is they are incredibly interesting. A moment or two’s reflection should be taken before extirpating countless generations with a garden hose or blow torch. 

            Did you know, for example, that if one were to dissect a female of the species (another sure-fired way to ensure the last suck she’ll take is an inhalation of air), you may be able to see another female, like a Russian doll, inside her beautiful green body? Yes, aphids give birth, not to eggs, but to live offspring, just like whales, elephants and humans. If that alone isn’t enough to stop the aphicide, there is more—much more—to this lowly creature that may make you press pause on your pathological derision.

Parthenogenesis in biblical proportions

            Aphids are in such a hurry to make babies that sometimes, when it’s summertime and there’s plenty of sucking to do, they don’t even bother with the whole business of finding a mate, courting, procreating, obligatory après-cigarette, etc. They simply give birth without the use of a male or his sperm. Without Y-chromosomes, the offspring are always female, but who doesn’t love little girls, especially when they, too, can do this parthenogenesis trick to reproduce in numbers that are practically biblical in proportion?

            This is not the only bar trick that aphids have up their proverbial sleeves. Have you ever seen an aphid with wings? Probably not, because you’re too busy squishing the bejesus out of them. But if you do look, you may notice that some are winged and some are not. This is because they can decide—or rather their proteins decide—whether they need wings or not. If it’s getting too crowded in one greenhouse and they think it prudent to set up shop elsewhere, aphids can produce offspring with wings. Although they may not win any awards for aerial acrobatics, they can harness an afternoon breeze to land on another patch of succulent vegetables, and before you know it, they’ve got a franchise up and running.

            When I was a small child—before the time of Sputnik, Luna, and Apollo missions—little green men, I was told, lived on our cheese-made moon. In my imagination, the little green men – who were much smaller than the gullible Gulliver’s Lilliputians – kept aphids as pets and took them for walks using little tiny leashes. I would watch them for hours and imagine how small their food bowls and collars must be. 

Would you like some honeydew?

            Being quite scatological (a word I learned while taking my BA), Jonathan Swift would have been fascinated to know that aphids drink a kind of Milk of Paradise and they poo a kind of honeydew. Ants, having quite the sweet tooth, unabashedly lick up all the poo the aphids produce and encourage them to make more by herding them to more succulent spots. Ants have also been known to protect their herds of aphids by caring for them in their ant-homes during the winter and bringing them out to graze again in the spring, like any good farmer. 

            How I wish I could tell Swift that aphids have tailpipes—tubular structures on their hind ends that entomologists call siphunculi—out of which they can spew a sticky substance, either to gum up the mouth of a pursuing predator or to protect their bodies from being made into a host home by  a parasitoid for its own offspring. 

            Right about now you are probably thinking that this is the stuff of science-fiction, but I assure you it is all true. I asked my sister to verify it, and though she’s a geneticist and not an entomologist, she knew most of what I said and was unsurprised at the rest. “Not enough work has been done on the aphid,” she said. “I should have gotten some of my students to research them.”

What did the aphid do in the bar-room brawl?

            Research them they should! How else are we supposed to learn how aphids defend themselves against those that consider them lunch? So far scientists have learned that they are quite good at bar-room brawls. Being expert kickboxers, they can pummel their pursuers with their long legs or do the stop-drop-and-roll trick and make a fast get-away. They’ve been seen stabbing their enemies in the egg cartons, killing the next generation of insects in vitro. Some aphids develop spines so that their enemies find them difficult to chew on. Some are born soldiers and never grow past the nymph stage. Like female eunuchs, these particular aphids have a sole purpose in life: to protect the oikos, which they do to their death. 

            With a list of enemies that include ladybugs, lacewings, parasitic wasps, hoverflies and damsel bugs, not to mention the aforementioned (so-called) gardening environmentalists, I do believe we should study these unbelievable bugs before we bash or blast them into oblivion. Aphids may not be welcomed as pests in our garden, but they do, like all creatures great and small, deserve our admiration.

The End

How to detect an infestation

If you see a sticky substance—the honeydew—on the leaves of your plant, look closely forgreen, pink, or even black dots. Chances are these are aphids. The leaves of the plant may have become misshapen, crinkly, or yellow from the sap being sucked out of them. Another possibility is that the honeydew may have attracted dust from molds. Still another possibility is that the plant has developed a canker sore as a result of all the aphid destruction.

What to Do

After you’ve appreciated your aphids, you can usually wash them off with the spray attachment on a garden hose. Failing that, squish them or sprinkle flour on top of them. The flour will give them indigestion, and they’ll move along. Other methods include wiping them off with a mixture of dish soap and water, or using a spray of insecticidal soap. As a last resort, diatomaceous earth (DE) can be sprinkled on the plant, but don’t do this if the plant is flowering as it will be harmful to beneficial pollinators as well.

            Plant something nearby that aphids don’t like. Aphids hate catnip, garlic and chives. Nasturtiums and mustards can be planted alongside to save broccoli, roses, lettuces, or peas. Check your trap plants often, and get rid of any aphids promptly before they attack the plants you want to save.

            You can attract ladybugs, parasitic wasps, lacewings, or other beneficial bugs to your gardens by planting marigolds, alyssum, dill, mint, fennel, Echinacea, calendula and buckwheat.

Wildflowers of Yellow Point

A wildflower may be defined as a flower that grows in the wild, not intentionally planted by humans. Included on this page are native, introduced, and invasive species of wildflowers that are found throughout the Yellow Point area. Please note that this is an ongoing project. Many (!) more ‘Wildflowers of Yellow Point’ will be added as time allows.

Also please note that although information regarding food and medicinal uses of plants is included for interest’s sake, the Yellow Point Ecological Society advises you to not ingest or otherwise use plants or their components without expert identification.

Fawn Lily – Lily Family (Liliaceae)

Erythronium oregonum

Status: Native plant

Description: The appearance of pairs of oblong, mottled leaves of the fawn lily is one of the first signs of spring in Yellow Point. The elegant white flowers, almost luminescent at night, arrive a short time later, usually in mid-late March. The white to pale yellow tepals (a term used when petals and sepals cannot be differentiated) curve upwards like the roof of a pagoda, exposing yellow anthers. Blossoms form in clusters of 1-3 per stem, with each flower measuring 2.5-5 cm across, on leafless stems up to 30 cm in height.

Habitat/Uses: Preferring fairly low elevations, the fawn lily naturally occurs in moist to dry grasslands and woodlands. It can be found in deep shade, but is generally found in sunny or partly shaded areas. Although it thrives in well-drained acidic soil rich in organic matter, it has been found in less favourable environments, including rocky areas. Its pollinators include bumblebees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and moths. Erythronium species can be grown in containers from seeds, which can be sown immediately if conditions are dry, or in late summer. They take up to five years to flower, so planting for a native flower garden is considered a long term project. Bulb division is possible but not recommended.

Did you know? Pink fawn lilies are a separate species (Erythronium revolutum), and are occasionally seen in Yellow Point.

Threat: A local resident has seen rabbits feasting on the flowers, which she fears may lead to their gradual disappearance.

Erythronium revolutum

Shooting Star – Primrose Family (Primulaceae)

Dodecatheon hendersonii

Status: Native plant

Description: One of the first flowers to emerge in the spring, these intensely purple-pink (and occasionally white) flowers resemble a thrown dart. Clusters of petals arching out from a bright yellow base and a brown flower tube give the shooting star its appropriate moniker. February-March brings the soft green, thick, spoon-shaped leaves first on the forest floor, followed by the intriguing flowers on long thin, leafless stalks in April-May. Height at maturity is up to approximately 30cm, but usually less in Yellow Point.

Habitat/Uses: Found at low to mid-elevations, these delicate plants can be found in grasslands and woodlands, and at forest edges. They prefer dry soil, and can be found in full sun and partial shade. Shooting stars evolved to attract certain species of solitary bees as well as bumblebees, who collect their pollen for their young. As shooting stars are a native species, they can be cultivated in native plant gardens, but it can take years to form a colony. Collect seeds in late spring, and plant in fall or early spring. Alternatively, bulblets can be divided very carefully and transplanted after flowering.

Did You Know? Successful pollination of shooting stars requires insects who are able to hang from below the flower and vibrate their wing muscles without moving their wings.  This mode of pollination, called sonication or buzz pollination, vibrates the flower, thereby shaking the pollen loose .  Here’s more on buzz pollination:

Common Camas – Asparagus Family (Asparagaceae)

Camassia quamash

Status: Native plant

Description: Also known as small camas or blue camas, this gorgeous native perennial with edible bulbs is characterized by dark blue or violet star-shaped flowers, adorned with six slender tepals, a green centre, and bright yellow stamens. Arising from grass-like leaves and found on stout stems, multiple flowers open sequentially from bottom to top, and can reach heights of 60cm. Blooms begin in late spring and can last into early summer.

Habitat/Uses: Camas plants are relatively common in fragile Garry oak meadows. The meadow in Yellow Point Park that faces Yellow Point Road is a typical Garry oak meadow; camas flowers are found there in abundance in the spring. Camas are also found growing on rocky outcrops, in coastal mountain forests, and in marshy meadows inland. They grow in full sun to part shade in fertile, moist, well-drained soils, tolerating drier conditions as the plants become dormant in the summer. Plants are easy to grow from seed, and are deer- and rodent-resistant.

Historically, camas bulbs were an important carbohydrate food source for First Nations. According to “The camas harvest and pit cook” on, First Nations family groups traditionally ‘owned’ their own camas harvesting areas. Larger bulbs, which are similar in taste to potatoes, “were encouraged by using a pointed digging stick to loosen the soil and the use of selective harvesting.” According to the above website, only five percent of First Nations’ traditional camas harvesting lands are in the same state now as they were before European contact.

Death Camas – Bunchflower Family (Melanthiaceae)

Zigadenus venenosus

Status: Native plant

Description: Similar in morphological appearance to the common camas but yellow or white in colour, death camas bloom at the same time as common camas but are generally easy to distinguish from them when in bloom due to stark colour differences. Numerous 6-tepalled flowers arise from a single, unbranched stem, which can reach up to 70cm, but is generally much shorter in the Yellow Point area. Leaves are grass-like and V-shaped, 10-30cm long and 2-10mm wide. Bulbs, 1-4 cm in diameter, are similar to both edible common camas bulbs and wild onion bulbs, but contain several toxic alkaloids, including zygacine, a compound toxic to the nervous system. Because the entire plant contains toxins, it should not be handled. According to the US Forest Service, bulbs can remain toxic for at least 20 years.

Habitat/Cautions: Death camas can be found in a variety of habitats, including dry meadows, hillsides, forest edges, and open forests. It is found in terrains where common camas grow, including Garry oak meadows, and it is commonly found amongst patches of common camas. Interestingly, soil moisture appears to affect zygacine levels: in one study, at 2 of 5 study sites, a 45% decrease in soil moisture was associated with a 40% increase in zygacine levels. Because of its toxicity, the only known bee that can tolerate its toxins is the specialist mining bee, Andrena astragali. It is extremely toxic to animals, especially sheep, with consumption of 2-6% of the body weight of the animal likely to be fatal. Humans have been poisoned after ingesting bulbs, and children have been poisoned after ingesting flowers and flower buds.

Monkey Flower – Lopseed Family (Phrymaceae)

Mimulus guttatus

Status: Native plant

Description: The dainty, intensely yellow monkey flower is an herbaceous perennial that blooms in Yellow Point in early to late spring, and continues into early summer. Blossoms, 1-4 cm in length, form clusters at the tops of stems, which can reach 10cm. Each flower is a bright yellow funnel of five fused petals – two at the top, three at the bottom. The throat of the flower has bright maroon spots and can be quite hairy. Oppositely arranged oval leaves, 1-10cm in length, are generally yellowish-green. Margins are marked with large irregular teeth.

Habitat/Uses: Found from sea level to mid-elevations and preferring average to moist conditions, the monkey flower is found in wet open sites, including seepage areas, meadows, streambanks, springs, and ditches. Its preference is sun to part shade; it is not particular as to soil or pH. A good choice for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds, it can be used in native gardens as border edging, ground cover, mass planting, and in wet rocky/alpine terrain. It is self-seeding, and can also be propagated by division.

Did you know? The maroon markings in the throat of the flower are a dominant trait, controlled by a single gene. The expression of the gene is temperature dependent.

Seablush – Honeysuckle Family (Caprifoliaceae)

Plectritis congesta

Status: Native plant

Description: A self-seeding annual herb appearing in early spring and lasting into early July, seablush flowers appear as swaths of small pink pom-poms that brighten often overcast and rainy spring days. Slender stems bear widely oval leaves, with rounded or pointed tips. Plants can reach a height of 60cm in some locales, but in Yellow Point the tallest plant would likely be in the range of 15-20cm. The flower head bears many tubular flowers, each with an upper and lower lobed lip. Three stamens tipped with purple anthers carry yellow pollen.

Habitat/Uses: A hardy plant, sea blush is found in various habitats, from damp grassy meadows near the ocean to dry rocky soils inland. Preferring sun (but tolerating shade), and often found in Garry oak meadows, it can be found from sea level to mid-elevation. Although seablush releases an odour that might be considered by us to be unpleasant (and certainly not consistent with its pretty appearance), sea blush is recognized by pollination ecologists as attracting large numbers of native bee species and butterflies.

Calypso Orchid/Fairy Slipper – Orchid Family (Orchidaceae)

Calypso bulbosa

Status: Native plant

Description: One of the early flowers to grace Yellow Point in the spring, the fragrant perennial Calypso orchid consists of three pointed, usually pink sepals, and two usually pink petals, found above a large hanging slipper-like lip, usually white or light pink with rusty or maroon streaks and spots. A yellow area is found near the opening of the ‘slipper’, and is decorated with three ridges bearing yellow hairs. The single stem, 5-21 cm in height, emerges from a single dark green, oval basal leaf, 2.5-6 cm in width, which develops in the fall and lasts through the winter . Both the leaf and stem grow from a thick, short underground stem, called a corm. If the corm becomes detached, as can happen from picking or trampling the flower, the whole plant usually dies.

Habitat/Uses: Calypso orchids are commonly found in dry to moist mossy forest habitats, at low to mid elevations. They grow well on decaying vegetation, such as on rotting logs and stumps, and tend to favour sheltered areas. They prefer light to heavy shade, but can also grow in direct sun. They do not transplant well, as they likely rely on specific soil fungi to survive. Individual plants generally live a short time in nature, approximately five years, with vigor generally waning after the first few years. Corms were used as a food source by First Nations.

Did you know? The genus name is derived from the sea nymph Calypso (meaning ‘to conceal’), daughter of Atlas, of Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’. Fairy slippers do not produce nectar. Instead, the similarity of the flower shape and smell to other nectar-producing flowers lures pollinators, resulting in collection and distribution of their pollen.

California Poppy – Poppy Family (Papaveraceae)

Eschscholzia californica

Status: Introduced plant

Description: Not native to BC (its native range only officially as far north as Oregon) but impossible to miss, this intensely orange fast-growing annual or delicate perennial poppy grows 15-45cm tall, often in bunches. Flowers, solitary on long stems, consist of four silky petals, 2-6cm long and wide. Petals close at night and in cold weather, and open in the morning, although they can remain closed in overcast conditions. Generally, blooms can be found from late May into autumn. The lacy blue-green leaves are alternately divided into round, lobed segments.

Habitat/Uses: Drought-tolerant and easy to grow in sandy, poor-to-average, well-drained soil, seeds germinate with rain and warmth in the spring. They can be found at low to mid-elevations. In our climate, poppies can survive several years via a fleshy taproot. Alternatively, when happy in their habitat, self-seeding is a common phenomenon. In landscaping, they can be used in container gardens, mixed beds, rock gardens, and xeriscapes. Deadheading spent flowers can encourage new blooms, but collecting seeds from seed pods affords spread of more beautiful colour in the garden. After the risk of frost is past, press the seeds lightly into the soil and water gently. Blue-green foliage appears after approximately two weeks, followed by the spectacular orange flowers. Deer and rabbit resistant (possibly because all parts of the plant are poisonous to mammals), these poppies attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

Did you know? The California poppy became California’s official state flower in 1903.

Yarrow – Aster Family (Asteraceae)

Achillea millefolium

Status: Native plant

Description: Appearing in June in Yellow Point, fragrant clusters of this flat-topped, perennial flower continue into late summer or early fall. Many white (and occasionally pinkish flowers) crowd into small flower heads; each small flower head in the cluster consists of three to eight tiny ray flowers with a strap-shaped petal. Feathery fern-like foliage is soft grey-green in colour, and aromatic. Plants can grow up to three feet wide, and three feet tall, but are generally much shorter and narrower in this area. It spreads by both seeds and rhizomes.

Habitat/Uses: Yarrow’s highly adaptable nature allows it to grow in wet to dry soil; in meadows, forests, rocky hillsides, and disturbed areas; and at all elevations. Found across the northern hemisphere, yarrow has been used in various medical remedies: its genus name Achillea comes from the mythical Greek hero Achilles, who reportedly carried it with his army to treat battle wounds. According to the Royal BC Museum, First Nations peoples value yarrow as a medicine to treat sores, aching muscles, and toothaches, and as a mosquito repellent. Yarrow’s bountiful floral display offers excellent forage for pollinators, and the foliage is a source of food and habitat to many species of butterfly and moth caterpillars. Yarrow is an excellent choice for xeriscapes, and can be grown from seed or transplanted from rhizome divisions.

Chocolate Lily – Lily Family (Liliaceae)

Fritillaria affinis

Status: Native plant

Description: A relatively rare flower to encounter in Yellow Point, the perennial chocolate lily can be difficult to find as its purple-brown flowers, speckled with green or yellow, can easily blend into the landscape. Blooms can be seen in March-April, and are broadly bell-shaped, with six similar, distinct oblong tepals, 2-4 cm long and 1-2 cm wide. A long, yellowish-green nectar gland is found on the inner surface, near the base, along with six stamens and one pistil. Flowers can be single or multiple (up to eight) at the end of a sturdy stalk which can grow to 60 cm, but usually much shorter in Yellow Point. Lance-like or egg-shaped leaves are found in one or two whorls of 3-5, measuring 5-10 cm long, 0.5-3 cm wide. Also called rice-root, the plant grows from white bulbs that produce bulblets that resemble grains of rice. These break off when the plant is disturbed, allowing propagation.

Habitat/Uses: Often found in Garry oak ecosystems, chocolate lilies prefer open woodlands, meadows, and coastal grasslands, but can be found in forests at low to subalpine elevations. They prefer sun but tolerate partial shade. Flowers are pollinated by flies, which are attracted by their somewhat offensive odour. These lilies are fairly easy to cultivate from bulb or seed for use in ornamental gardens, doing well in well-drained, humus-rich soil. They are deer and rabbit resistant. An important food source for centuries for Coast Salish communities (, TSALIQW, as it is called, was boiled or steamed for immediate consumption, or dried and stored for use through the winter months. Bulbs were also traded with other communities.

Broadleaf Stonecrop – Stonecrop Family (Crassulaceae)

Sedum spathulifolium

Status: Native plant

Description: Found on cliffs and sunny rock faces throughout Yellow Point, this perennial plant is rumoured to have been the source of Yellow Point’s name. Flowering from May to July, the plant appears typically succulent, with grey-green to dark-red plump rosettes (2-4 cm in diameter) consisting of approximately 15 spoon-shaped leaves. Rosettes give rise to a short (8-10 cm), erect inflorescence composed of many small, bright yellow, starry flowers containing 10 stamens and 5 pistils.

Habitat/Uses: Found at low to mid elevations, stonecrop prefers light, sandy, and loamy well-drained soils, and full sun; it will tolerate light shade. It is frequently found growing on rocks amid clumps of various species of mosses and liverworts. Since the plant needs very little care, it is an ideal plant for beginner gardeners. It is easily transplanted: simply remove a piece from an established plant and place on soil in the desired area, watering lightly to help establish roots. The plant is drought-tolerant, and deer- and rabbit-resistant. Medicinal uses of the leaves include treatment of constipation, gingivitis, and hemorrhoids. Juice from the leaves reportedly can staunch bleeding. First Nations people had several uses for the plant, from treating hemorrhoids and constipation to soothing infants.

Common Woolly Sunflower – Aster Family (Asteraceae)

Eriophyllum lanatum

Status: Native plant

Description: Also known as Oregon Sunshine, the woolly sunflower is not a ‘real’ sunflower, but a fibrous-rooted perennial herb. The intensely yellow, daisy-like flowers, up to 5 cm in diameter, bloom from May to August. The flower is actually a flower head of numerous florets. Looking closely, one sees that the outside flowers have 1-2 cm oval petals, framing numerous inner florets. The silver-grey stems, bearing multiple silvery leaves, shoot upward from the ‘woolly’ base foliage. A mature, robust plant can reach 60 cm in height, but wild plants most often only reach a maximum height of far less.

Habitat/Uses: The woolly sunflower thrives in sunny and dry areas, and grows well in poor, rocky soils. It can be found in dry open areas, such as on bluffs and rocky slopes. Its preference is sun, but it is also found blooming in partial shade. The plant spreads gradually, and is very attractive to pollinators and other beneficial insects. It is used as an ornamental in native gardens, but can also be grown in pots. An added bonus is its resistance to deer.

Tapertip Onion/Hooker’s Onion – Lily Family (Liliaceae)

Allium acuminatum

Status: Native plant

Description: This striking, bulbous perennial is uncommon, but occasionally found in Yellow Point. Almost-white to deep pink flowers bloom, in groups of five to 40, on a firm, rounded stalk, 10-30 cm in height. This head of flowers, called an umbel, can reach up to 7.5cm in diameter. Each flower sits on a stalklet (‘pedicel’), with three sepals and three petals; anthers are yellow. Flowers can be found in June and July in Yellow Point. Leaves are long, with narrow, tapered tips which wither before the flowers appear.

Habitat/Uses: Preferential to sunny locations and sandy or loamy well-drained soil, this onion can be found on hills, and in grassy and rocky meadows, at low to mid elevations. It is extremely drought tolerant, making it a good choice for xeriscaping or rock gardens. First Nations valued this plant as a food source, along with other native onions found in the Pacific northwest, harvesting the light brown 1.5 cm bulb either in early spring or late fall and eating raw or cooking in pits. Flowers, leaves, and bulbous root are all edible, with a strong onion taste.

Pacific Bleeding Heart- Fumitory Family (Fumariaceae)

Dicentra formosa

Status: Native plant

Description: A beautiful and delicate perennial plant with small, puffy, pink, heart-shaped flowers, the Pacific bleeding heart can be found blooming in Yellow Point in May and June. The genus name Dicentra refers to the two nectar-bearing flowers with four petals each, which create a sac with spurs on the end. Bluish-green leaves are deeply cut, lacy, and fern-like. The plant grows up to 45cm in height, with foliage almost as tall as the flower stalk. It spreads mainly by rhizomes, but is also spread by ants, who feed their young an oil-rich appendage of the seed and dispose of the rest, thus assisting in seed dispersal.

Habitat/Uses: The bleeding heart grows best in moist, well-drained, humus-rich soil, at low to mid elevations. It thrives in part to full shade in woodlands, damp forests, ravines, and near streams, preferring cooler temperatures. The flowers are rich with nectar, attracting syrphid flies, bumblebees, and hummingbirds, and the foliage is a food source of the butterfly larvae Clodius parnassian. Bleeding hearts can be used in native woodland gardens, growing well with various fern species beneath other plants and trees. Deer tend to ignore the plant. First Nations peoples reportedly used the roots to treat toothaches and worm infestations. However, the entire plant contains toxic compounds (isoquinolones), which, in large quantities, can cause trembling, weakness, convulsions, and difficulty breathing. Any part of the plant may cause skin irritation due to these poisonous compounds.

Self-Heal – Mint/Deadnettle/Sage Family (Lamiaceae)

Prunella vulgaris

Status: Introduced plant

Description: Flowering in Yellow Point from June onward, this perennial plant is native to Europe. Although generally low-growing, it can reach heights of 30 cm. It is characterized by small, two-lipped dark pink or violet flowers, clustered into dense spikes, 2-5 cm long and ~ 1.5-2 cm wide. Medium lance-shaped green leaves reminiscent of mint leaves arise in pairs along the square stem. Leaf edges are toothed or slightly wavy.

Habitat/Uses: Self-heal is adaptable, and grows easily in various landscapes, from garden beds and borders to woodland edges and meadows. It prefers sun or partial shade, moist soil, and cool to mild temperatures. It is found at low to mid elevations. Edible leaves and flowers have been long used in a variety of ways in folk medicine: plants are usually cut during summer flowering and used in various infusions, tinctures, and ointments. The flowers are rich in pollen, so are an important food source for butterflies, bumblebees, honey bees, sweat bees, and long-horned bees.

Harvest Brodiaea- Asparagus Family (Asparagaceae) (Formerly in Lily Family)

Brodiaea coronaria

Status: Native plant

Descripton: Blooming in late June/early July, these native perennial six-petalled lavender-blue, violet, or rose upright bell-shaped flowers grow in a loose umbel. They arise on an erect stem from 1-3 grass-like basal linear leaves, ~ 2 mm wide. At the centre of the flower are white to purple hornlike staminodes (sterile stamens) that lean toward the fertile stamens. It can reach a height of 30 cm in some habitats, but is usually shorter in the Yellow Point area.

Habitat/Uses: Found in grasslands and open woodlands at low to mid elevations, this drought-tolerant plant prefers full sun but tolerates light shade. Well-drained soil and dry summers favour its proliferation; rock gardens and xeriscapes are ideal places for it to grow. The plant is slow-growing, long-lived, and very easy to care for. It comes into flower as native grasses become dormant, hence the term ‘harvest’ in its common name. The corm of the plant is edible, apparently sweet and flavourful with a taste and texture similar to sweet potatoes. It is a food source for rodents; rabbits and slugs enjoy the young shoots in the spring.

Oxeye Daisy – Aster Family (Asteraceae)

Leucanthemum vulgare

Status: Invasive plant (as designated by

Description: Often confused with the ornamental Shasta daisy, perennial oxeyes are daisy-like flowers with 20-30 white ray flowers, 1-2 cm long, surrounding yellow central discs, 10-20 mm wide, on long slender stems. Lower leaves are lance-shaped with toothed margins. Upper leaves have wavy margins and are alternately arranged, narrow, and stalkless. Flowers appear in early June in Yellow Point, and continue well into July. Plants can grow up to one metre tall. Widespread and considered a weed or invasive plant in many countries, the oxeye is native to Europe and temperate Asia. It is considered a noxious, invasive weed in BC.

Habitat/Hazards: The oxeye daisy can be found growing in a variety of habitats, including meadows, open forests, and disturbed areas. It is a common weed in fields and along roadsides in Yellow Point. Found at low to mid elevations, it prefers sun but tolerates partial shade. It is able to grow in a variety of soils, from degraded pastures to rich loamy soils. It spreads by both seeds and rhizomes, with a mature plant producing up to 26,000 seeds. A new plant can regenerate from rhizome fragments, making it a difficult plant to eradicate. Additionally, plants can cause soil erosion, as their manner of growth results in exposed soil. These plants decrease forage for wildlife, and crowd out our native plants, decreasing local plant biodiversity. Although the unopened buds can reportedly be marinated and eaten, the plant has an unpleasant taste, which causes grazing animals to avoid it, leading to further spread in pastures. The plants have a shallow root system, so are easy to pull up, but seeds can germinate years after dispersal, often making eradication a long-term project.

Lupines – Legume Family (Fabaceae)

Lupinus sp.

Status: Native plants

Description: Lupine species found in Yellow Point are a group of striking white, pink, blue and purple flowered perennial herbs, growing up to 90 cm in height. Flowers, up to 2 cm in length depending on species, grow in tiered whorls around a raceme, which can measure up to 20 cm. Flowers bloom starting in late June in the area, and can continue into August. Leaves with hairy undersides can feature up to 15 light to medium green elliptical leaflets, alternating along a central stalk in palm-like fronds. Stems are hollow.

Habitat/Uses: Lupines can be found from sea level to elevation up to 2500 m. Generally, they prefer slopes, full to partial shade, and moist to fairly well drained soils. Lupinus latifolius prefers moist open to shady woods and meadows; Lupinus rivularis is found in sand and gravel, near marshes, streams, and other wet places at low elevations; and Lupinus littoralis is found at sea level in coastal sands. Lupines attract butterflies and birds.

Did you know? Although they are not found in Yellow Point, Vancouver Island marmots favour feasting on lupines. Interestingly, several (but not all) species of lupines are known to contain alkaloids, which are poisonous.

Pearly Everlasting – Aster Family (Asteraceae)

Anaphalis margaritacea

Status: Native plant

Description: Emerging in late June or early July in Yellow Point, the individual cottony stems of the herbaceous perennial pearly everlasting grow 30-90 cm in height, often in clumps. Flowers are globular, long-enduring, white, dry bracts with yellow centres, resembling fried eggs, although younger flowers are reminiscent of small pearls. Flowers are often slightly musky smelling. Leaves are long and slender, arranged alternately, with green surfaces and white, woolly undersides that match the stems. The hairy stems and leaves are an adaptation to reduce water loss and overheating.

Habitat/Uses: Preferring sun to part shade, pearly everlasting grows well in sandy, gravelly, dry soils, and is often found on roadsides in Yellow Point in the heat of summer. It can also be found growing in meadows and woodlands, and does well as a drought-tolerant specimen in native plant gardens. It can be used in flower arrangements, and has been used medicinally as a salve to treat burns, bruises, and sprains. Plants can be grown from seed or propagated. Bees and butterflies are the main pollinators; the American Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) uses the plant as a host for its young. Reportedly, it was used as a tobacco substitute by First Nations peoples.

Great Mullein/Common Mullein- Butterfly Bush Family (Scrophulariaceae)

Verbascum thapsus

Status: Invasive plant (as per BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resources)

Description: This statuesque hairy biennial herb/weed, a native of Europe/northern Africa/Asia, starts out as a small rosette of furry silver-grey leaves, eventually growing to heights of two metres or more when well-established. In its second year, a flower spike bearing numerous, short-lived yellow flowers emerges. The inflorescence is 10-50 cm, densely packed, with wheel shaped flowers 1.5-3 cm in diameter. The stem carries numerous leaves alternately, which reduce in size as they ascend the stem. Leaves are uniquely arranged to form clasping channels to carry the water down the stem toward the roots. The abundant ‘hair’ on the leaves ‘shades’ the leaves, preventing excess evaporation, making this plant extremely drought-tolerant.

Habitat/Uses: Mullein thrives in challenging conditions, preferring places like gravel pits, dry roadsides, and fields with well-drained soil. It flourishes in full sun, and can be found at low to mid elevations. This is a great plant for wildlife, attracting bees, hoverflies, and other pollinators. It also supplies (non-native) carder bees (Anthidium) with ‘fur’ to build their nests. Various species of caterpillar may also feed on the foliage. It is a prolific self-seeder, and in a hospitable environment often needs to be weeded out. Mullein has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy. Tea can be made from flowers and leaves to soothe respiratory ailments. The plant also has antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.

Did you know? The Romans believed placing leaves at the openings of homes would repel demons. Some legends say that witches used the flower spikes as torches and other stories say that burning the spikes repels witches and evil spirits (from

St. John’s Wort – St. John’s Wort Family (Hypericaceae)

Hypericum perforatum

Status: Invasive plant (as designated by

Description: Considered an invasive plant, St. John’s wort is a perennial invader of disturbed land and grazing fields that flowers in June-July. The flowers are characterized by five bright yellow petals, often ringed with black dots, clustered at branch tips. Ten or more stamens and a single pistil emerge from the centre of the flower. Flowers in clusters can number up to 100, and each plant can produce up to 100,000 seeds each year, which can survive in soil up to ten years. Stems up to 60 cm in height carry simple, veined, opposite leaves. Held up to the light, translucent oil glands on the elliptical or triangular leaves give a perforated appearance, hence the epithet ‘perforatum.’

Habitat/Uses: St John’s wort prefers dry, sandy soil and full sun, and can be found at low to mid elevations in grasslands and forests. It is often seen on the roadside in Yellow Point. Well known as a treatment for depression, the plant is reportedly also used as a diuretic, expectorant, and sedative. (Please consult your health care provider for medical advice before ingesting St. John’s wort.) It is considered poisonous to livestock, due to the compound hypericin, which causes photosensitivity.

Sweet Pea/Everlasting Pea – Legume Family (Fabaceae)

Lathyrus latifolius

Status: Introduced plant

Description: Arising from a single root, dramatic displays of these robust, brightly coloured perennial flowers burst forth in Yellow Point in late June/early July. Racemes of 4 to 11 white to dark pink odourless flowers are produced on hairless stems carrying short, wide-winged leaves, which hold pairs of lance-shaped to oval, pointed leaflets up to 7.5 cm long and 2.5 cm wide. Flowers, up 2.5 cm wide, are composed of an upper and lower keel with lateral petals. If available, these plants will climb adjacent vegetation using their tendrils, and can reach three metres in height. They spread by rhizomes and self-seeding.

Habitat/Uses: Introduced from Europe, sweet peas are found in abundance in Yellow Point, sprawling along roadsides and in ditches. They prefer moist, well-drained soil, full sun to light shade, and are found at low to mid elevations. Bumblebees pollinate, butterflies visit for nectar, and deer (usually) ignore them. They can be grown in gardens, but often need to be cut back. They make striking cut flower displays throughout the summer. Note that the peas are NOT edible.

Queen Anne’s Lace/Wild Carrot – Carrot Family (Apiaceae)

Daucus carota

Status: Invasive plant (as designated by

Description: Native to Europe and Asia, Queen Anne’s lace is considered invasive to BC. It is a biennial herb characterized by an umbrella-shaped white, yellowish, or pinkish umbel up to 15 cm wide, composed of numerous 5-petaled flowers. There is often a solitary purple flower centrally. The umbel sits atop a 90-120 cm hairy, fine-lined central stem (which may branch), while oblong, pinnate, feathery leaves that resemble poison hemlock, fool’s parsley, and water hemlock, are found at the base and alternately along the stem. Lower leaves appear more ‘feathery’ than upper leaves, with upper leaves becoming smaller, shorter-stalked, and more widely spaced than those near the base. Flower heads appear in Yellow Point in June and continue through the summer. Foliage and the slender, woody taproot smell distinctively like edible carrots.

Habitat/Hazards: Queen Anne’s lace establishes easily on road sides, abandoned fields, and disturbed agricultural land. It is a hardy plant and thrives in dry environments, preferring full sun to partial shade, and well-drained to dry soil. Removing the plant (since it is considered invasive) can be done by pulling or digging it up, ensuring removal of the entire tap root. Note that handling the plant can cause allergic reactions or skin irritation. Additionally, the plant can be confused with its cousin, giant hogweed, which, if handled, can result in severe skin irritation, blistering rashes, scarring, and even blindness. If uncertain of the species, do not touch it. (If you believe you have found hogweed in the area, the Coastal Invasive Species Committee can be contacted at 1-844-298-2532 to properly dispose of the plant.)

Did you know? Romans ate Queen Anne’s lace as a vegetable, and early Europeans cultivated it. (Note: Do not eat wild plants without positive identification from an expert. Many people have confused Queen Anne’s lace with poison hemlock, resulting in illness or death when ingested). Its common name derives from a legend that states Queen Anne of England (1665-1714) pricked her finger while tatting lace, resulting in a single drop of blood landing in the centre of the lace.

Botanical Definitions


Anther: The part of the stamen where pollen is produced. 

Corm: Vertical, fleshy, underground stem that acts as a food-storage structure in certain seed plants.

Inflorescence: A group or cluster of flowers arranged on a stem that is composed of a main branch or a complicated arrangement of branches.

Ovary: The enlarged basal portion of the pistil where ovules are produced.

Peduncle: The stalk of a flower. 

Petal: The parts of a flower that are often conspicuously colored. 

Pistil: The ovule producing part of a flower. The ovary often supports a long style, topped by a stigma. The mature ovary is a fruit, and the mature ovule is a seed. 

Raceme: A flower cluster with the separate flowers attached by short equal stalks at equal distances along a central stem. The flowers at the base of the central stem develop first.

Receptacle: The part of a flower stalk where the parts of the flower are attached. 

Sepal: The outer parts of the flower (often green and leaf-like) that enclose a developing bud. 

Stamen: The pollen producing part of a flower, usually with a slender filament supporting the anther. 

Stigma: The part of the pistil where pollen germinates. 

Tepal: Segment of the outer whorl in a flower that has no differentiation between petals and sepals.

Umbel: An inflorescence that consists of a number of short flower stalks which spread from a common point, somewhat like umbrella ribs. The word was coined in botanical usage in the 1590s, from the word Latin umbella, meaning “parasol, sunshade”.

Native/Introduced/Invasive Designations

Varying definitions exist for the terms ‘native’, ‘introduced’, and ‘invasive’. Additionally, there seems to be no ‘master’ list for introduced and invasive species for this region, or for Vancouver Island. (If anyone knows of such lists, please let us know!)

A native plant is defined by the Native Plant Society of BC as “one that occurs naturally in a particular region, ecosystem or habitat – and occurred prior to European contact….Native plants have co-evolved with animals, fungi, and microbes to form a complex network of relationships. These plants are the foundation of native ecosystems, or natural communities.” (

The Invasive Species Council of BC (, a registered charity and non-profit society, lists invasive species found in BC on its website. It defines invasive species as: plants, animals or other organisms that are not native to BC whose introduction and spread causes harm to the province’s native species or our economy.

A definition for introduced species (also known as an exotic, alien, non-native, or non-indigenous species) is an organism that is not native to the place or area where it is considered introduced and instead has been accidentally or deliberately transported to the new location by human activity ( Such species can ultimately become invasive, or can co-exist with native species. For this page, ‘introduced’ species are those that are non-native but also non-invasive.


Electronic atlas of the flora of BC:

Invasive plant species in BC (reference is from 2004; updates to list is uncertain, but at least some invasive plants (e.g., Himalayan blackberry) are not listed):

Website of the Invasive Species Council of BC:

Camosun College’s website of native plants and traditional uses by First Nations:

Author and photographer Mark Turner’s exhaustive website of wildflowers of the Pacific northwest:

Nanaimo and Area Land Trust’s website for their native plant nursery:

The Province of BC’s website for invasive species, including a link for reporting invasive species:

Habitat Acquisition Trust’s website for gardening with native plants:

The Native Plant Society of BC’s website:

This page from the Master Gardeners Association of BC has a downloadable pdf of the native plants of the Pacific northwest:

Pojar and MacKinnon’s ‘Plants of Coastal British Columbia’ is a best-selling field guide of plants found along the coast from Oregon to Alaska:

A Very Fishy Tale

By Pamela Walker

I didn’t believe him when he said the fish could sing. I didn’t believe him when he said, in fact, that they could sing so loudly I should be able to hear them on land. That maybe I had heard them, but had mistaken their song for a generator, or some kind of weird engine. 

I didn’t believe him when he said the fish had marks that were actually lights, and that these lights were so bright they could be seen at depths below 400 meters, which is where the fish live most of the time. Except when they mate in the intertidal zone. 

Continue reading “A Very Fishy Tale”

The Trees of Yellow Point

Welcome to the Yellow Point Trees.

Yellow Point/Cedar area on Vancouver Island is a beautiful and diverse area within the Coastal Douglas‐Fir (CDF) ecosystem.
It lies between Nanaimo and Ladysmith, with Highway 1 forming a logical boundary to the west and the coast to the east.. 
There are coastal, riparian, forested and urban/agricultural habitats, interspersed with rocky outcrops and bluffs, so typical and unique to this part of the world.

We hope this webpage will provide the reader with useful pointers for seeing and recognizing the trees found here, without going into too much (botanical) detail. For those who are interested, there are links for more information. 

In a forest with big trees, sometimes all you can see is the trunks! It is helpful to recognize the bark, but not all bark is easily distinguished. In that case, look down on the ground. You will find tell-tale signs of the tree above: cones/fruit, a broken branch with needles/leaves, or last year’s leaves.

Knowing the seasons of the trees will help too, each tree has its time to shine.

This webpage is a work in progress – starting with the 10 more common big trees, more will be added over time…


Arbutus menziesii

SIZE: up to 30m
AGE: 250-400 yrs

Ericaceae (Heath family)

This is an eye-catching tree, with its colourful and whimsical trunk and limbs, especially against the backdrop of the serious and upright conifers! It is Canada’s only native evergreen broadleaved tree. It is  very much part of the CDF ecosystem.

The arbutus has a tortuous growth as it looks for light, for it cannot tolerate shade. 

HABITAT:  Dry and sunny, on rocky, well drained sites, open forests, clearings, rocky bluffs and along the coast. Yellow Point Park entrance has some lovely specimens.

FEATURES:  Its most remarkable feature is the bark, revealing a seasonal change of yellow/golden/green to fiery cinnamon which peels in autumn. As the tree gets older, the bark remains on the trunk, especially where shaded and it becomes brown and scaly. 

The leathery leaves are shiny green above and pale whitish below.

The seed germinates readily, but browsing by deer can prevent a seedling from growing into a tree. By caging them, the seedlings/young trees on your property will have a chance to grow !

back to top

Bigleaf maple

Acer macrophyllum

SIZE: up to 35m
AGE: 200 yrs
Aceraceae (Maple family)

The bigleaf maple gives the forest a mystical appearance with its tall, often multi-stemmed trunks all covered in moss, lichen and liquorice ferns!

HABITAT: They grow best in rich moist soils, but they do tolerate drier conditions as well. As they need light to grow, you’ll find them along stream banks, in clearings or edges, logged areas. They have solved their conundrum of wanting to live in the forest, but needing the sun to grow, by being able to grow very quickly when young (up to 3m/year) and by having big leaves, that they keep horizontal to catch more light.

FEATURES: The bigleaf maple is a large deciduous spreading tree. As its common name suggests, it has large maple leaves with 5-lobes. In fall they turn a rich yellow.
In spring, the yellow-green flowers hang in big clusters and appear before or with the leaves.  Their 2-winged seeds are joined at the base (called a samara) that whirl in the air  when they drop – the following spring you can find the forest floor covered in little seedlings!

The most distinctive feature of the bigleaf maple is the trunk, actually what grows on the trunk! The rough bark with longitudinal ridges is calcium-rich and encourages the growth of mosses, lichen and liquorice fern. It can support more epiphytes than any other tree in the Pacific NorthWest (the biomass can be up to 4x the foliar weight of the host tree). When the epiphyte load is thick enough, the bigleaf (and the vine maple and a few other tree species) are then able to produce canopy roots into this biomass to extract water and nutrients.

back to top

Black cottonwood

Populus balsamifera ssp trichocarpa

SIZE: 25-50m
AGE: 200-300 yrs
Salicaceae (Willow family)

The iconic tree of the wetlands. The black cottonwood is a tall deciduous tree, that can grow up to 2m/year. Morden Colliery Trail has a few old giants.

HABITAT: They tolerate standing water and can grow abundantly on floodplains. They are often found along rivers and streams and in freshwater marshes.
They need rich soils and lots of sunshine.

 FEATURES: Older trees have a long branch-free trunk, with a thick and deeply furrowed bark.
Black knots on the trunk are not unusual and are caused by a fungus. The bark on young trees is smooth and greenish.

Leaves are shiny green above and a pale silvery below, heart-shaped/triangular leaves 6-12 cm long with a pointed tip. The leaves are slightly toothed, and the veins curve upwards. The leafstalk (petiole) is long and not flattened, like its little sister, the trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides), so you can roll it between your fingers. The leaves turn a beautiful yellow in the fall.

In spring it disperses its seed in white fluffs that float through the air like wisps of cotton.

Black cottonwood is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers are borne on separate trees

The buds contain a waxy resin with anti-infectant properties still used in many modern natural health ointments. Bees collect it and use it to seal off intruders.

back to top

Coastal Douglas-fir

Pseudotsuga menziesii spp menziesii

SIZE: up to 70m
AGE: 1000+ yrs
Pinaceae (Pine family)

The coastal Douglas-fir is the most common tree in our area and is the   backbone of the CDF  ecosystem. It is a large stately evergreen tree.

Douglas-fir is hyphenated, because it is not a true fir. True firs belong to the genus Abies, whereas Douglas-firs belong to the genus Pseudotsuga (which means ‘resembling hemlock’).

HABITAT: It has very adaptable growing requirements, from dry poor rocky soils to moist rich soils (it does not however do well in poorly drained wet soils). They are somewhat shade tolerant, but do much better with light.

FEATURES: Their most distinguishing feature are the cones. They have three-pronged bracts and are 5-10cm long and hang down from the branches in the upper crown or the tree. They fall on the ground intact, you can always find them on the ground for identification. (Unlike those of the true firs, that disintegrate on the tree).
Younger trees might not have cones yet, then look at the way the flat green needles are arranged all around the twigs. The needles are 2 cm long and not sharp to touch.

Older trees have a long branch-free trunk. The very thick bark has deep vertical fissures.

New studies on the underground life of trees has revealed an incredible network of cooperation between the roots and mycorrhizae – this can be seen above ground in the ‘living stumps’, where a stump has healed over and is thus able to offer its established network of roots to surrounding trees!

back to top

Garry oak

Quercus garryana

SIZE: up to 25m
AGE: 250-500 yrs
Fagaceae (Beech family)

The Garry oak is our one and only native oak in BC – a lovely gnarly tree, often found with coastal Douglas-fir and arbutus. With good soils, it can grow into a medium sized tree; on dry shallow sites it remains small.

The Garry Oak Meadows are a beautiful, but threatened habitat, with their showy display of spring flowers like camas, white fawn lily, western buttercup and shootingstar. The entrance of the Yellow Point Park is a remnant of a Garry oak meadow, it has all the flowers, and a Garry oak.

Garry oak hiding in plain sight

HABITAT: Dry rocky slopes, bluffs or open meadows, shallow to deep rich, well-drained soil, the key being that they get enough sunlight, as they don’t like shade (or competition for that matter).

 FEATURES: We can recognize them by their gnarly growth habit and their deeply round-lobed oak leaves (up to 12cm long), glossy bright green above, and hairy below. The leaves turn brown in fall and can remain on the tree.

The grey bark has thick scaly ridges.

The Garry oak only starts producing acorns after 20-25 yrs. The acorns are 2-3 cm long and drop to the ground when ripe. They only remain viable for one season. The Garry oaks can also sprout or grow from underground rhizomes

back to top

Grand fir

Abies grandis

SIZE: up to 80m
AGE: 300 yrs
Pinaceae  (Pine family)

The grand fir is a fast growing tree and can grow very tall. In our CDF-ecosystem, it is more commonly an understory tree, forming about 10% of the tree community.

HABITAT: It prefers deep, rich moist soils along streams and mountain slopes, but it also tolerates our drier rain-shadow coastal forests.
It is shade tolerant. 

FEATURES: It is easiest recognized by the flat, glossy dark green needles, that are arranged in two flat comb-like rows. The entire branch appears flattened. The needles are a pale green below, due to the two longitudinal white lines (stomata). They are not sharp to touch and release a citrus scent when crushed.

Cones are hard to find, as they are borne in the top of the tree and disintegrate on tree when mature (as all in the genus Abies do). They sit upright on the branches.

The bark is smooth and greyish-brown with white spots and blisters filled with gummy resin when young.
The bark becomes furrowed and scaly with age.

Like all true firs, the needles are soft,
flat (can’t be rolled between fingers)
and do not ‘pull-a-tag’ when removed.
Spruce trees have needles that are
prickly, square (can be rolled) and pull
a tag when removed.

back to top

Pacific dogwood

Cornus nuttallii

SIZE: 10-20m
AGE: 150 yrs
Cornaceae (Dogwood family)

Our Queen of Forest! This beautiful, medium sized, deciduous tree grows in the Douglas-fir forests, together with the western redcedar, grand fir and western hemlock.

In spring she is adorned with fabulous white blossoms, making this the best time of year to find her.

HABITAT: The Pacific dogwood prefers deep, rich soils on moist well-drained sites, but it can tolerate slightly drier conditions too. It is found as an understory tree in fairly open, mixed forests or at the forest’s edges and openings. The Pacific dogwood likes to keep its trunk shaded.

FEATURES: Showy white ‘flowers’ facing up towards the sun, that appear from mid April: be on the look-out while you are driving and you’ll see her poking her pretty head out of the woods!

The green leaves grow opposite to each other, are oval with a pointed tip and have the typical dogwood-pattern with curving parallel veins. When the summer hasn’t been too dry, the leaves turn a beautiful orange-red in fall.

In September/October the happy cackling of the northern flicker or the pileated woodpecker will remind you, that the Pacific dogwood is in fruit with bright red drupes arranged in clumps.

Here you can see all branches are directed to the sun. The trunk will be shaded by its own foliage. The bark can look like the bark of the  red alder, grey and blotchy (in winter, the absence of small woody cones make it more likely to be a Pacific dogwood)

The leaves and twigs are favoured by the deer and young seedlings stand no chance with high deer pressure! One can recognize a young pacific dogwood by the way the twigs are arranged along the main stem: opposite in 4’s, very symmetrical in appearance and the bright green leaves growing at their ends. Caging them until they grow out of reach is a very rewarding effort!

back to top

Red alder

Alnus rubra

SIZE: 15-25m
AGE: <100 yrs
Betulaceae (Birch family)

The Pioneer! A fast-growing, medium sized deciduous tree. When it sees an opportunity, it will colonize and form an attractive stand – there is beauty in singularity.

HABITAT: It prefers sunny, moist to wet sites and is found along marshes, floodplains and stream banks, but also clearings or disturbed sites (seeds need light and mineral soil to germinate).

FEATURES: They are generally found in stands, rarely are they by themselves. 
Catkins appear before the leaves early spring. Male flowers are in long, drooping, reddish catkins and female flowers are shorter.

After the leaves have fallen, the red alder is easily identified by the woody cone-like fruit, that remain on the tree all winter.
The bright green leaves have toothed edge and straight lateral veins, with a ‘pleated’ appearance.
The bark is pale and thin with patches of moss or lichen growing on them.


The red alder is an excellent pioneer species for re-establishing woodlands on disturbed and difficult sites, disused farmland etc. It is a fast growing and wind resistant tree, that will quickly provide sheltered conditions to allow more permanent woodland trees to become established. It enriches the soil by fixing atmospheric nitrogen. Their extensive root system make it suitable for controlling erosion along the banks of rivers. Alder trees also have a heavy leaf canopy and when the leaves fall in the autumn they help to build up the humus content of the soil. Alder seedlings do not compete well in shady woodland conditions and so this species gradually dies out as the other trees become established.

back to top

Western hemlock

Tsuga heterophylla

SIZE: 50-60m
AGE: 1200 yrs
Pinaceae (Pine family)

A most graceful large coniferous tree, the third most common tree in the Pacific Northwest.

HABITAT: A true forest dweller, it can grow in deep shade. You will often see it growing on an old stump, or decaying wood and nursery logs.
It prefers moist to very moist sites, but is does well here in our slightly drier CDF forests too, probably with help of the mycorrhizae.

 FEATURES: It has an obvious drooping leader (especially when young) and drooping tips of lateral branchlets with flat sprays of dull mid-dark green needles. 
The small, woody cones are usually less than an inch (2.5cm) long.

The green needles are soft, short and flat and of unequal length (as the species name heterophylla implies), forming flat sprays. 
Looking underneath, the needles appear almost white, because of two broad bands of white stomata with only a narrow green midrib between the bands. No needles grow downward.

The needles of the grand fir (Abies grandis) are arranged in a similar way, but the needles are a glossy yellowy-green, longer and underneath appear less white, because the green midrib between the stomata is broader.

bark of western hemlock

back to top

Western redcedar

Thuja plicata

SIZE: 50-60m
AGE: 1200 yrs
Cupressceae (Cypress family)

The co-dominant conifer in the CDF ecosystem, it is a large and magnificent tree, in all aspects.
It is the provincial tree of British Columbia.
It is also referred to as arborvitae, the Tree of Life .

It is not a true cedar; that name belongs to the old world genus Cedrus.

HABITAT: It is a very adaptable tree tolerating most soil types. It prefers shady, cool, moist habitats. It is most abundant along streams, seeps, bogs, and wet bottomlands and usually grows in mixed conifer stands. With our mild wet winters and coastal summers and with the help of mycorrhizae, it has done well in our rain-shadow CDF forests.

FEATURES: It is easily distinguished from the other evergreens in Yellow Point/Cedar by its leaves and its bark.
It has no needles. The leaves are scale-like and compressed tightly to the stem, looking like fine braids and forming graceful yellowy-green sprays that droop down along the swooping branches that turn up at tip.

Small seedcases appear in loose clusters and become woody and remain on the tree through winter.

The bark is grey to reddish brown, fibrous, appearing like long vertical lines. The trunk becomes buttressed with age.


Older trees produce a chemical called
thujaplicin. It is a natural fungicide,
making the wood rot-resistant.
Its aromatic oils deter moths and carpet beetles.

back to top